Tuesday, 22 February 2011

First Will and Testament

Originally uploaded by reuvenim
After years of procrastination the worry for the fate of our child has finally got to us and we started working on preparing our wills. If anything, this laziness of ours indicates how far we are from the Aussie mainstream for whom writing a will is a national sport (to be fair, there are some fairly good legislative reasons for that).
Last night we drafted our will related ideas down, and I thought I should quote from those for two reasons:
  1. To see if anyone could enlighten us with their one ideas. For example, if someone has a good claim for an item of mine that they should receive at the event of my death (say, my copy of Mad Magazine featuring the Top Gun parody), here is your opportunity.
  2. As I have no particular secrets I would like to keep to my dead self, I thought it would be better if my current final wishes are here for everyone to see. That way there would be less surprises and that way there is less chance of my wishes not being followed.
The main dilemmas we have with the will are to do with the taking care of our son if both of us parents die, how to manage the money we leave him if both of us die, and how to split our property up in case all three of us die. I know the majority of family members will shiver at these very thoughts let alone the publication of these thoughts over the Internet, but I actually regard them as an interesting intellectual challenge. No, I do not pay much attention to the superstitious line of thinking that says discussing post death events causes death; I know with utmost certainty my death will take place anyway, so I might as well prepare for it the best I can so that the impact on those I care for is as minimal as it can be.
With that in mind, here are some excerpts of my thoughts so far on matters where privacy is not an issue:
  • In the event of my death, all my Hebrew books should to go to my sister. Many of them are gifts from my late uncle that she’d be able to appreciate even if she doesn’t like science fiction in particular.
  • Everything else should go to my wife (or my son, if we’re both dead).
  • Under no circumstances should our son be made an Israeli citizen or moved to live in Israel. However, he can visit his family there as much as he wants.
  • Funeral arrangements for Moshe:
    Under no circumstances are funeral or memorial arrangements to include religious ceremonies or motifs (at the punishment of prematurely joining Moshe). In particular, no Yarmulkah/Kippah are to be worn by anyone and no prayers of any kind (Jewish or other) are to be read.
    Although Moshe does not intend to attend his funeral or memorial services on his behalf, he warmly recommends people to listen to his favorite music, watch his favorite films, read from his favourite books, look at all the stuff he put on the Internet, or watch Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Moshe particularly recommends the last episode of Cosmos, Who Stands for the Earth.
    Moshe's body is not to be taken back to Israel for burial (unless Moshe happens to die in Israel).
    Ideally, Moshe's body is to be disposed of in the most environmentally friendly method available. If that is too complicated, then cremation is a viable alternative.

Update from 24/2/2011:
After further consideration, here are some more items I would like to add. Those who know me must have wondered how these requests never made it to the first draft:

  • My son may not be indoctrinated in any religion.
  • My son may not go to a school of religious affiliation (e.g., Jewish, Catholic).
  • My son may not attend religious education classes at school.
  • My son may not take part in activities of predominantly religious nature (e.g., religious camps).

Needless to say, the above cease to take effect once my son gains the right to make his own decisions at the age of 18.


Uri said...

1. John Book was here.

2. Since you don't expect to be aware of anything after dying, what do you care about burial services?

Or are you trying to save your wife some arguments with your family?

wile.e.coyote said...

What about the foundations of mechanics book, who gets that one?
Also what about your debt to me? Will Jo cover that?

Moshe Reuveni said...

I'll address your claims in order:

1. John Book: Say so and I will mention it in the will, but be quick about it please. Not just this one: if you have any other items you covet, go for it; they won't bring any money to the family and I prefer to give them to someone who will appreciate them.

2. Burial services:
You're right, I doubt I will attend these ceremonies. However, I do not want my death to turn into an environmental menace (e.g., block a plot of land just because my body is there, carbon emissions just so I can be buried where my Israeli family wants me to be buried, etc).
I also do not want my death to be a catalyst for the religious ceremonies I so despise, the way my family would definitely act unless very strictly forbidden from doing so: come on, saying "god the merciful" in my name? No, I don't want my death to further spread ignorance in this world.

3. Family arguments: My goal is, in general, to make my death as smooth an experience as possible while still standing up for the values I hold. If my family is dumb enough to want to pray for me, and let's be clear about it - they are - then I will do my best to support those who will stand for my position. My family needs to realize I am my own person and I am different to them; I hope this post will help them realize that while I am still alive, never mind after my death.

4. Mechanics book: You don't need to wait for me to die in order to have it.

5. Debts: My records indicate it was you who were in debt to me. My records also indicate that debt was written off some ten years ago in lieu of much appreciated favors. We're even, Steven.

Sarah said...

We must be bad Australians as we still haven't done a will either. We keep getting stuck on who we would leave our kids to and never get any further as we can't think of any suitable candidates.

Moshe Reuveni said...

Sarah, I can't say that we are particularly happy with the child arrangements that we came up with. On the other hand, we are talking here about a scenario where major shit had happened, and in such scenarios it is obvious that no one is going to be happy. So we just picked compromise and went along with it.
But yeah, you are a bad sport. Tony Abbott will take care of you.

MC said...

Oh dear, a life as a BA has ruined me. Change the "may not" to "shall not" or "will not" so that people understand there's no room to move here. LOL!

Moshe Reuveni said...

I actually went for the tamer language on purpose. The intention is to appeal to the family to try and do as we wish rather than impose on them, under the assumption that over the years people will only remember the gist of the will and in effect it will not have much legal authority.
Interestingly, or rather annoyingly, the first draft of the will the lawyer sent us to review simply ignored all these “extra” religion related bits altogether and elsewhere changed our language into pompous lawyer speech (the type that’s harsh and intentionally incomprehensible so as to give the rest of society an excuse to hate lawyers). We asked for a revised draft; I suspect this could go on forever, just like any good old requirements document. I do have limited patience when my money is on the line, though.
Yes, I have some inherent antagonism there: wills are supposed to be written by laymen people, and I don’t see any reason for lawyers to grab control over them.

MC said...

Ah that's interesting. We wrote our own wills, with some help from a book that pointed out some tips, guidelines & the fairly obvious traps, precisely for that reason. Though if I had children, then I'd probably want more professional advice.

That a side, I have seen other wills written by lawyers and they were in very simple language.

Moshe Reuveni said...

We had a booklet, too, which we bought at the post office and originally decided to use for writing our wills. Seven years later we still haven't, hence going to the lawyer. And yes, those extra added complexities took us to the lawyer, too: "can we do this", "what if that happens" etc; since we want our wills to work properly we thought we'd better use a lawyer, and in his credit he did provide us with good answers. I'll qualify that by saying that most parents who did a will should be able to give us the same answers.
Another point to the lawyer's credit: he looks after the will for us, which means one less worry. It's presented as a free service, but then again his fees for writing the will are worse than broad daylight robbery.
All in all, I came to the wills not thinking highly of the law profession in general (there are obvious exceptions), and I haven't seen much to make me think otherwise.

Moshe Reuveni said...

A discussion involving four participants other than me is probably this blog's record.
I should discuss death more often.

Sarah said...

I am sure to if the lawyers have been charged with the duty of being executors of the wills they will take a nice share of your estate too. Don't get me started on trying to get my Mum's estate finalised when it was as simply as could be and yet somehow took more than 18mths to do and I ended up having to pay them to get my Mum's house back! Deals with the devil...

Moshe Reuveni said...

Thanks for the tip, Sarah. We were actually seriously considering using a lawyer for that given the lack of relatives in Australia to do so for us.
Eventually we discovered that we can be each other's executioners (a much more suitable term then "executor"), which is great because my wife happens to be the person I trust the most in this world. In the less likely case we die together that duty will go to a mix of family and friends.
The duty of the lawyer we've engaged thus far (who, to date, is yet to provide us with a satisfactory draft of our wills) would be to just keep a copy of the will at his safe for our executioners to refer to. Once we do finalize our will affairs I will publish the whereabouts of our wills here so that there can be no doubt as to what should happen after I die.

Anyway, thanks for helping me disqualify the lawyer option. It seems a lawyer-less life is a life better lived.

MC said...

Just including for the discussion, my other half was an executor for a relative jointly with her solicitor. The relative lived in country Victoria. It was very useful in this case to engage someone who knew the process of what needed to be done, and to take care of a lot of the time consuming legal paper work and adninstration, especially if you don't live in the same location. That being said, I guess you can engage someone if you need to. Generally unless you know the persons affairs well, and the person has left their estate in an order that is easy to understand, its going to involve a fair bit of work to settle things. You would not believe the who-ha you need to go through to do simple things like re-directing mail, cancelling direct debit payments etc. If leaving the job to friends, its nice to include provisions for their costs to carrry out your wishes, because there inevitably will be some. Of course they may decide to decline to accept but I think its a nice gesture.

Moshe Reuveni said...

I think the lawyer put something for covering expenses (to quote from the current draft, "...and the costs involved in the execution of the trusts"), but generally speaking I have to say I didn't think of that at all. Obviously, I lack the imaginative power to realize the complexity of things.
One thing I did think about, me being me, is the fate of my digital heritage. What is to happen to all my Flickr photos, for example? Would they die, effectively, once I don't renew my Pro membership? Or how is my wife to acquire control over it? Leaving passwords stored somewhere is not a practical idea in a world where passwords change by the minute.
Anyway, thanks for the tip.

Sarah said...

Yes you are better off to make each other executers and then if it is too much once the time comes you can engage a lawyer to do it and know the upfront fees then. It seems once a firm is engaged in a will to do this they will not let go of the estate.

Mine was a slightly different case as Mum had no family in Australia and we were children when the will was made she did it through "State Trustees" and they had a 5% claim over the estate for doing the job and this is how I ended up having to pay them. We requested through a lawyer for them to release it and they refused but then took them 18 mths to complete the work when there was only one beneficiary and very minimal things to tie up it was ridiculous.

Moshe Reuveni said...

For the record, and for the potential benefit of others, our lawyer told us we could use overseas executioners but that it’s preferable to have local ones. We ended up with local ones for the simple reason our overseas relatives would have no idea how things work here (and in the event their services are required there’ll be no one to explain).